Archive for November, 2017


November 24, 2017



The phrase with ALL <*We all were delighted…> is wrong. The right variant is <We were ALL delighted…>.  Also correct is: <We must ALL try to find…> (not <*We ALL must try to find…>). ALL usually goes immediately after the (first) auxiliary verb. When there is no auxiliary verb, ALL is placed immediately before the main verb: <We ALL passed the exam.> However, when the main verb is BE, ALL is placed immediately after it: <The letters are ALL on your desk> The same rule about their position in relation to the auxiliary verb, the main verb and the verb BE is true for the adverbs ALMOST, ALREADY, ALWAYS, ALSO etc.: Correct variants: <I had ALMOST finished the letter, when …>, <They are ALREADY aware of this problem,> <He is ALWAYS in a bad mood,> <You should ALWAYS take care, when…>


ALONE = by yourself, not with anyone, without other people present  <He thought about getting married, but he preferred living ALONE> LONELY = sad because you are ALONE.


It’s wrong to say <*A child learns a lot by doing this ALONE.” Correct: <A child learns a lot by doing this ON HIS OR HER OWN, i.e. without anyone’s help or supervision, independently>


The pronoun “it” is NOT used as a preparatory subject before ALLOW. Wrong: <*It is not allowed to talk in the library> Correct: <People are not allowed to talk in the library> or <Talking in the library is not allowed>


Sometimes I come across native speakers who use the word ALSO in negative clauses, which is not recommended by the official grammar. As for the place of ALSO in the sentence, it can – according to the BBC Learning English – go in lots of places, including the beginning of the sentence when it is separated with a comma, e.g.:

Also, I think that you should consider quitting your job.
also think that you should consider quitting your job.
I think that you also should consider quitting your job.
I think that you should also consider quitting your job.
I think that you should consider also quitting your job.
I think that you should consider quitting your job also.

Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern Usage says that in talk, where the informal stringing of afterthoughts is legitimate, there is no objection to ALSO. But it is the writer’s ordinary duty to settle up with his afterthoughts  before he writes his sentence, and consequently, the unassisted ALSO that is proper to the afterthought gives a slovenly air to its sentence <Remember your passport and money. Also the tickets>


In British English ALTERNATE means 1) “happening in turn, first one, than the other” <alternate periods of sun and rain> 2) “every second (day, week, etc.)” <Our local football team plays at home on alternate Sundays> ALTERNATIVE = (of two or more things) that may be used, had, done, etc., instead of another. In American English ALTERNATE can also be used with the same meaning as ALTERNATIVE. Thus, the two following sentences mean the same: American English: <We decided to make ALTERNATE arrangements in case the hotel was fully booked> British English: <We decided to make ALTERNATIVE arrangements in case the hotel was fully booked>  Please, notice the usage of the verb ALTERNATE (with the  difference in pronunciation between the adjective [ôl′tər-nit ] and the verb  [ôl′tər-nāt′, ăl′-]): <The students alternated at the computer>


The word means “at all times, every time,” which is why it’s wrong to say <*While he was writing the letter, he always scratched his chin>. The correct version is: < While he was writing the letter, he kept scratching his chin, i.e. scratched his chin repeatedly>


November 22, 2017


THINK The synonymic field with the headword “THINK” having the meaning: “to use one’s power of conception or judgment in regard to any matter or subject which concerns or interests one, is rather extensive.

COGITATE. To “think” is the general term when it goes about mental activity for the sake of forming ideas or reaching conclusions. However, this word does not stress the character of thinking, as the word COGITATE does. COGITATE suggest the atmosphere of profound thinking, of which some result is expected <still COGITATING and looking for an explanation… – Dickens>  <Mrs. Berry had not COGITATED long ere she pronounced distinctly and without a shadow of dubiosity: “My opinion is…” – Meredith>

REFLECT  implies a turning of one’s thoughts back to something that exists, has occurred or needs reexamining. It implies quiet, unhurried, and serious consideration or study <…stood REFLECTING on the circumstances of the preceding hours – Hardy> <All the important things in his life , [he] sometimes REFLECTED, had been determined by chance – Cather> <began to study its organization, REFLECT on its psychology…and ponder the results – Shirer>

REASON is mainly about consecutive logical thought, beginning with a postulate, a premise, or evidence and proceeding to a conclusion or judgment <no man as near death as I was feeling, could, I REASONED, be absorbed by such trifles – Lucas>

SPECULATE is similar to REASON but stresses the uncertainty of argumentation or the incompleteness of the data and therefore usually imputes a hypothetical or theoretical character to the conclusion reached <the two women SPECULATED with deep anxiety on whether or not little Pamela had died of exposure – Cheever><…philosophers have SPECULATED on the question of God for thousands of years>

DELIBERATE suggests slow and careful reasoning and fair consideration of various aspects in an attempt to reach a conclusion often on a matter of public interest <the future relations of the two countries could not be DELIBERATED on with a hope of settlement – Froude>

PONDER has the implication of weighing and suggests consideration of a problem from all angles in order that nothing important will escape one. In this respect the word. The difference between PONDER on the one hand, and WEIGH and CONSIDER on the other, is that the last two words imply fixing the mind on something in order to increase one’s knowledge or understanding of it or to solve a problem involved in it. PONDER does not contain that element of “increasing.” <the great master was wont…to…spend the day PONDERING the subjects of his brush by the side of running streams – Binyon>

MEDITATE adds to PONDER the idea of focusing one’s thought for the purpose of understanding the thing in all its aspects.

MUSE comes close to MEDITATE in implying focused attention  but it suggests a less intellectual aim; often it implies absorption and a languid turning over of a topic, as if in a dream, a fancy, or a remembrance <let him read a certain passage of full poesy  or distilled prose , and let him wander with it , and MUSE upon it … and dream upon it – Keats> <still a pleasant mystery; enough to muse over on a dull afternoon – Davis>

RUMINATE implies a going over the same problem (object of meditation) again and again. But it does not carry as strong a suggestion of WEIGHING as PONDER, or concentrated attention as MEDITATE, or of absorption as MUSE, and it more often implies such processes as REASONING and SPECULATION <I sit at home and RUMINATE on qualities of certain little books like this one,… which I can read again and again – L.P.Smith> <forty years on RUMINATING on life, of glimpsing it in its simplest forms through microscopes – Kaempffert>

CONSIDER is an applying of one’s mind but sometimes it also carries such a restricting implication as that of a definite point of view <in the last paragraphs we have considered science as a steadily advancing army of ascertained facts – Inge> or as that of thinking over <the publishers told him they would CONSIDER his book> < marriage is an action too freely practiced and too seldom adequately CONSIDERED>

CONTEMPLATE implies, like MEDITATE, the focusing of one’s attention upon a thing and a close dwelling upon it; the term, however, does not always carry a clear implication of the purpose or result. When the object on which the mind rests is a plan, a project, or an imaginative conception, CONTEMPLATE usually suggests its formulation in detail or its enjoyment as envisioned <Herbert bent and kissed her cheek. The moment and the act he had CONTEMPLATED for weeks with a thrill of pleasure – Hardy> When the object contemplated lies outside the mind, the term suggests an attempt to increase one’s knowledge and comprehension of it through minute scrutiny and meditation <while science CONTEMPLATES a world of facts without values, religion CONTEMPLATES values apart from facts – Inge> <…nature is beautiful only to the mind which is prepared to apprehend her beauty , to CONTEMPLATE her for her own sake…– Alexander>

WEIGH implies evaluation of something and especially of one thing in respect to another, it suggests an attempt to get at the truth by balancing <to WEIGH evidence> <observations are not to be numbered, they are to be WEIGHED – Ellis>

EXCOGITATE implies the application of one’s mind to something so that one may find the solution of the problem involved  <EXCOGITATE a plan whereby poverty may be relieved without unduly burdening the taxpayers><Scientist must stop to observe and start to EXCOGITATE>

MULL. I didn’t find in dictionaries any special features that distinguish the word MULL (OVER) from the words RUMINATE, PONDER, CONSIDER. It looks like the word is more colloquial than these three, and more recent in origin (the first quarter of the 19th century). Here are some contemporary examples from the Web: < A group of friends gathers to MULL over what to do with a day off><Clearly, the attorney has already begun to MULL his options> <Residents MULL it over in daily conversations: whose apartment was robbed last night?>


November 20, 2017



The knowledge of a very common pronoun “I” (first person, singular) can enlarge the linguistic competence of an English learner.

First of all, the pronoun has two synonyms – me and myself. However, they should be carefully used, since sometimes they are not accepted as the standard replacement of  I. While “It’s me” doesn’t arouse much antagonism any longer, John and myself is still not accepted by language purists. On the other hand, when used for emphasis, myself/himself, etc. is quite acceptable <I myself was certain of the facts>.

Besides standing for a person who describes oneself as a speaker or writer, the pronoun “I” has the meaning of a distinct and personal individuality. Examples: <there is but one “I”> < the other I> <In some cultures the We precedes the I>. The pronoun can also mean “an excessively egotistic person”: <just a big I>

Used as a letter (lower-cased or upper-cased), I can be a Roman numeral representing what is generally known as the figure/number  “1” – often in combination with other Roman figures to represent a number: IX, XVII, xxxii, etc.

The shape of the capital letter I with two short horizontal sticks respectively on top and at the bottom is the basis of the meaning “in the form of the capital I”: <an I-beam>.

There are quite a number of words that use the capital I as their shortening. I’ll mention only one that is often used by teachers who may assess a student’s written work as “I” (= incomplete).

Being the ninth letter of the English alphabet, the letter may be used to designate a phenomenon which is the ninth in order or class. Cf.: an I-class product – similar to A-class, B-class, … H-Class, etc.

To wrap up my short insight into one of the most frequently used English words, here are a few phrases that cannot function without the pronoun “I”.

  1. I couldn’t ask you to do that = That is a very kind offer, but I wouldn’t dare ask you to do that (this is NOT a refusal of the offer): Sally: Look, if you want, I’ll drive you to the airport. Mary: Oh, Sally, I couldn’t ask you to do that.
  2. I could(n’t) care less = I don’t care! (please, note that the meaning remains the same, no matter whether “could” or “couldn’t” is used): So, you are late. I couldn’t care less!= So, you are late. I could care less!
  3. I could have bitten my tongue off! – meaning: you profoundly and immediately regret having said something.
  4. I couldn’t agree (with you) more! = I completely agree with you <I couldn’t agree with you more about the need to hire extra staff>
  5. I could (just) spit = I’m very angry about what has happened <Did you hear the way he was blatantly lying to us? I could just spit!>
  6. I could murder (some kind of food) = I’m so hungry that I could (or would like to) devour (some kind of food) <I’m famished after the hike. I could murder a hamburger right now> OR: <I could murder a coffee>
  7. I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you (in text messages, the phrase may be presented as an abbreviation ICTYBTIHTKY) – said in answer to a question that one does not want to answer. The equivalent of “don’t ask.”
  8. I don’t mean maybe! = I’m not kidding! <You get over here right now (=come here immediately), and I don’t mean maybe!>
  9. (I) don’t mind if I do = An affirmative response to an offer <A: Would you like a cold drink of water? – B: Don’t mind if I do>


November 19, 2017

Extracts from the book by Thomas W. Adams and Susan R.Kuder






1. an established standard of decency, honesty, etc
2. abidance by this standard
  1. The football coach threw Dan a curve. He assured Dan he would be picked for the team, but in the end he told him he wasn’t good enough ANOTHER SITUATION: “What a surprise! Amy really threw me a curve. All along she said that she liked me, and then suddenly she said she wanted to break up. I feel terrible!” (mislead or deceive someone; surprise someone in an unpleasant way).
  2. When Peter smashed his car, the insurance company gave him a fair shake. They gave him enough money to repair his car (honest treatment).
  3. In the divorce settlement, Margaret got burned. Her ex-husband got everything and she got nothing (to be severely wronged).
  4. Chris got away with murder. She knew her parents would not like it, but she stayed out all night at a party. When she got home, her parents didn’t say anything to her (do something very bad without being punished).
  5. When Ruth broke Kathy’s favorite bowl, Kathy raked her over the coals. She yelled and yelled at Ruth, told her she was clumsy and said that she should never touch anything of hers again (criticize sharply).
  6. When Jean cooked dinner for Nancy, she burned the food. Nancy refused to eat it. To add insult to injury, she told Jean she was not a good cook, and probably never would be (hurt someone’s feelings after doing that person harm; make bad trouble worse)
  7. When Terry failed the English test, Kelly told him he was stupid and would never learn to speak English. Kelly’s comment was a hit below the belt (be an unfair or cowardly act; do something that is against the rules of sportsmanship or justice).
  8. Erickson, the store manager, gave Larry the ax. One day Larry came to work, and with no warning, he was fired (abruptly finish a relationship; fire an employee without warning).
  9. Linda and her friends decided to go to the movies. Linda wanted to see one movie, and everyone else wanted to see another. Linda was a good sport, and went to the movie her friends wanted to see (be someone who has a good sense of fair play).




 List of Idioms:

 Bare one’s soul = tell everything

Be two-faced = be hypocritical

Be up front = be totally honest

Get something off one’s chest = unload a burden

Lay one’s cards on the table = tell all, be completely open

Look someone in the eye =meet or face directly

Pull the wool over someone’s eye = deceive someone

Talk behind someone’s back = gossip about someone without the person’s knowledge

Tell it like it is = tell the truth


Usage of the idioms:

  1. Bill told Steve that he really liked Steve’s girlfriend, Gail. The same day, however, he told Jim that he thought Gail was a bore. Bill is two-faced.
  2. Sandy talked to Jill about her most personal problems. Jill now knows just about everything important there is to know about Sandy. Sandy bared her soul to Jill.
  3. Mark was allowed to borrow his father’s car on the condition that he not take it out of town. Mark drove the car one night to a neighboring town and his father never found out. Mark pulled the wool over his father’s eyes.
  4. Mary did not do her homework because she had forgotten about it. She thought she might tell her teacher she had lost it, but she decided to tell him what really happened. She was up front with her teacher.
  5. Barb and Maryanne room together. Maryanne often borrows Barb’s clothes without asking her. This bothers Barb, but she has not said anything to Maryanne. Finally, she tells Maryanne that she has something she wants to get off her chest. She tells her what has been bothering her.
  6. Frank Smith is running for governor. In his speech to the people of his state, he says exactly what he thinks. He hides nothing. Frank Smith tells it like it is.
  7. When Mary is with Alice, she criticizes Bill. When she is with Bill, she often criticizes Alice. Neither Bill nor Alice knows that she does this.. Mary often talks behind her friends’ backs.
  8. Jill made it clear when she had her job interview that although she wanted to work for that company, she was planning to move to another state in a year. She thought it was important for her to lay her cards on the table.
  9. Mrs. West’s daughter, Joann, broke a lamp while playing with her brother. When Mrs. West asked Joann what happened to the lamp, Joann looked her mother in the eye and told the truth.


  1. When people lay their cards on the table, they are being completely open about something. Explain where this expression comes from.
  2. To tell a “little white lie” means that a person tells an untruth in order no to hurt another. Although it appears to contradict the value of honesty and directness, it is acceptable because in a small matter, people do not want to offend someone they know and like. If, for example, you are sick and look terrible, and a friend who visits you says you look wonderful, that person is telling a “little white lie.” Can you think of other situations in which a “little white lie” might be appropriate?
  3. In some countries, looking someone in the eye is a way to indicate that people are listening carefully to each other. IS this in your country? If not, what does direct eye contact communicate?
  4. DIALOG:

Mr. Smith: You remember John Goodrich, don’t you? I hired him several months ago and really thought he liked working for us…

Mrs. Smith: What do you mean? What happened?

Mr. Smith: Well, he was talking behind my back. I was outside his office – he didn’t see me, of course, — and he was telling another employee how unhappy he was at Ajax.

Mrs. Smith: Why would he do that? Didn’t he tell you the other day that he was very happy with his job?

Mr. Smith: Yes… But that wasn’t what he said to everybody else in the office.

Mrs. Smith: I had no idea he was so two-faced.

If you were Mr. Smith in the dialog, how would you handle the problem of John Goodrich talking behind your back?



November 18, 2017

teaching English



A true story that happened to me when I was doing my practice teaching way back in 1969.

Being a budding teacher at school, Pete was up to his eyes in work. He had a mentor  – Mr. Nosey – assigned  to him. The idea was that the mentor should give Pete all the back-up needed. The colleagues said Mr. Nosey would observe Pete’s lesson practically every day. “You’ll see if he doesn’t,” they said. Mr. Nosey did.
Pete’s lessons of English were carefully planned. He also ran a pedagogical diary to jog his memory when some special methods of teaching were to be applied. Pete took a leaf out of his mentor’s book.  The mentor said that if homework was given, it was mandatory that the teacher check it through and evaluate it. Whenever there was a failure, Pete was back to the “drawing board” – to his literature in methodology. You couldn’t conduct a good lesson if you didn’t have enough elbow room and if you didn’t have something up your sleeve (another of Mr. Nosey’s  instructions). Pete thought that Mr. Nosey’s  recommendations were far-fetched. Before every lesson Pete had a hang-up about his future ordeal and he never smiled until he had conducted it. He was rather sensitive about his methodological missteps. No sooner had he done something wrong than he could have kicked himself, as he knew, his faults were registered in Mr. Nosey’s log-book. He knew that if he protested, he wouldn’t have a leg to stand on, since everything was done according to school regulations. But as long as Mr. Nosey was observing his lesson, Pete felt like a cat on hot bricks. The presence of the mentor was very off-putting.

Pete’s problem was his tempo. He always scorched along the pre-planned lesson at high speed and, and as a rule, had a good five or ten minutes before the bell, when he didn’t know what to do with the class. The same happened this time. However, Pete was in luck’s way. He recalled a short verse from his diary. “Listen, folks,” he said, “I’ll recite a poem about… love.” The class (young people, all 16-17years of age) cocked up their ears for the key-word LOVE. Pete started:

“They walked in the street together, the sky was covered with stars, // They reached the gate in silence, // He drifted down the bars… // She neither smiled, nor thanked him, Because she knew not how,//  Because he was a farmer’s boy, // And she – a farmer’s cow…”

A thunderous laughter shook the walls of the classroom and lasted long enough until the final bell went.


“Why do they call it a “building”? It looks like they’re finished. Why isn’t it a “built”?”

“I was the best man at the wedding. If I’m the best man, why is she marrying him?”

“Why did the boy throw the clock out the window? — To see if time really flies.


“I am on a seafood diet. I see food, and I eat it.”

“Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people. So overweight people are now average. Which means you’ve met your New Year’s resolution.”


“When people say that love is even more important than money, let them pay their bills with a hug.”


“Why are there no ants in church? – Because they are IN-SECTS


“A manicurist once went out with a dentist, but they decided not to get married on the grounds that if they did, they’d be sure to end up fighting tooth and nail.


“A doctor and a bus driver are both in love with the attractive girl. The bus driver had to go on a long bus trip that would last a week. Before he left, he gave the girl seven apples. WHY? – Because an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”


“To have Van Gogh’s ear for music – to be tone deaf (Van Gogh only had one ear!) Example: Xavi really shouldn’t play the piano- he has Van Gogh’s ear for music”


November 12, 2017


This year’s November 7th passed in Ukraine almost unnoticed. Just another day in late autumn – short, dark and dull. That’s not what the Communist party leaders hoped for when they celebrated the 50th anniversary of the “Great October Socialist Revolution” (that was the official name) fifty years ago. I remember 1967 very well. General euphoria flooded the three existing television channels and all the paper media were crammed with “reports” about the achievements of the working people and working intelligentsia on the “labor fronts.” There was no end to all sorts of functions and meetings, to congratulatory telegrams sent by leaders of “brotherly” parties from all over the world. My fellow student said to me then, “Can you imagine what it will be like when the centenary of the Revolution is celebrated?” However, there was nothing on November 7, 2017… Just another November day, dark and boring…

Political experts and analysts have written volumes about the collapse of the Soviet Union, emphasizing various reasons why the implementation of the communist ideology failed. All of them may be right. I am just going to present a layman’s arguments why I am strongly against this ideological experiment to be repeated now or any time in the future.

At first sight, I don’t have much to complain about. I grew in a family in which there were three more children. When our father died, two of the children were still in high school (my brother, who was three years younger, and I were already university students). Our mother, being the only bread-winner in the family with a rather small salary – just enough only to make both ends meet,  managed to raise the younger ones and they also graduated from universities.  I received what I consider to be good education and I felt (and continue to feel 🙂 ) quite comfortable in such areas as pedagogy and foreign languages. Later, when I met American and British educationalist, and then when I taught at schools of Sheffield and Chicago, I saw for myself that my level was not lower than that of my colleagues in Britain or the U.S.A. At the start of my career, I was “given” an apartment to live in. In those days apartments were not bought – they were “given” for free by the administration at your place of work if they thought that you were an efficient and perspective employee, i.e. if you “deserved” this benefit. Apartments became immediately the property of those to whom they were given, and no one could take them away from you, even if you changed your place of work and started working for another enterprise, or even if you went to another city to work.

When I began working after the university, I could afford to buy good books. I collected an excellent home library which contained the best works of world classical literature. My own children were basking in the atmosphere of books and music. When they were little kids, my wife and I used to take them to the seaside either in the Crimea or the Caucasus practically every summer.

No unemployment, residence given for free (and used in perpetuity), free education, free medicine, the motto “A man is a brother (not a wolf) to another man…” Why, then, am I AGAINST that communist experiment?

In the first place, it’s because not everything was free… You could openly say only what the Big Brother expected you to say. I had to be cautious when I was teaching classes. In one of her lectures, in the 1970s, one of my colleagues mentioned (in passing) that millions of people had been murdered on Josef Stalin’s orders. She was reported by an anonymous informer and kicked out from the university within a couple of days.

Earlier I mentioned my home library: John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, William Golding, Dylan Thomas, Muriel Spark… Their works were (and are now) on my shelves at arm’s length. But to possess such books as The Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn meant much trouble if the possession was discovered. And should the owner give The Gulag Archipelago to a friend to read, that could lead to an arrest and imprisonment of the giver because such an action came under the provision of the law about anti-Soviet propaganda. Myself, I was able to read Solzhenitsyn’s work only in the United States. Earlier, in Britain, I read George Orwell’s 1984 and Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, which were also banned in the Soviet Union.

All schools, factories, farms (there were only “collective” farms), all enterprises, offices – no matter how small they could be – each had their “party bureaus” which kept a watchful eye on the behavior of their employees. If anyone (even not a Communist party member) stepped back from the “party line,” repercussions followed right away. In my time there were no mass arrests, as they were in the 1930s,  but dismissal from work was common. There were expulsions of students from universities too. One of our students who knew English best was sent to Alma-Ata (the then capital of the Kazakh Republic in Central Asia)  to participate in an all-U.S.S.R. English competition. There he told (in private, with only a few people present) a “political joke.”  A week or two after his return from Alma-Ata, the local KGB informed the university rector about the “disloyalty” of the student. He was saved from expulsion only because he was in his last year of the university and was already assigned to a certain place to work after graduation.

Incidentally, placements after graduation were another headache for most of the students. The graduates had to work where the educational authorities sent them to – even if the students had found better places of work which were more to their liking and where they were welcomed. Places for students in the first 2-3 years of graduation were in remote (“God-forsaken”) villages, hardly accessible in late fall or winter time, and with very limited number of conveniences.

Travelling abroad was a privilege of the few who were chosen. Again, such trips had to be approved beforehand by a party bureau or a party committee, which supervised subordinated party bureaus. If any stepping back or away “from the line” was revealed before the trip, the candidate was barred from travelling. The same took place when a person returned from a trip abroad with “tarnished reputation” (usually it became known also from anonymous reports). Then, violators were blacklisted and banned from future trips. Another colleague of mine bought a crucifix (a small, next-to-skin baptismal cross) while being on a tour in Bulgaria. A few days after his return, there was a phone call from the regional party committee, followed by a staff meeting where the colleague’s behavior was discussed, and only because he was not a communist party member, the punishment was mild – just a reprimand registered in his work record book.

As regards religion, officially it was not banned, but by default (a popular word in our computer age), it was frowned upon. Scientific Atheism was a required course at all departments in all universities. My mother was a Baptist believer, and I was reticent about it knowing that I would hardly be allowed to work were I was working if the administration found it out.

As a child, I listened to what my parents told me about their childhood. In the 1930s, my grandparents (both on the paternal and maternal lines) had been dispossessed of their land and evicted from their homes just because they were a bit more successful than most other villagers, i.e. they had a few more horses or oxen, their houses were more spacious, etc. After the eviction and their property – even their kitchen utensils – taken from them, they had to go and live at other people’s homes – as a rule, with their distant relatives. And since the relatives could not physically accept the whole family in their houses, the parents lived at one place and the children at another, sometimes in another village. My father’s father was arrested for being “rich” but managed to escape, and lived secretly in another part of the country.

And then, there was so much of deception and lying behind pompous phrases and speeches from TV screens and rostrums. The party bureaucrats, unable to work the command economy, which they called “planned economy”, generated continuous shortages of food, clothes, services, etc. They tried to calm the people by their “skoro budet” (“it’s coming soon”) slogans. However, they did not tighten their own belts. They had special shops (including food shops) which had all sorts of goods inaccessible to “lesser mortals”, special  clinics and hospitals for themselves, right connections… Only one telephone call from a local party boss was enough to solve any issue — even if “to solve” meant to break the law. That was called the “telephone right.” In case with higher education, the telephone right was used, for example, to secure the admission of their sons, daughters and other relatives, or just those from their own clan, to universities, though in most cases young people who were admitted this way didn’t match the admission standards.

I have cast a glance at the latest stage of communism in my country, as I experienced it myself. I could write hundreds of more pages with thousands of examples about why I cannot accept that ideology. It looks human only on the surface – free education, free medicine, “homo homini frater est,” etc., etc. It is inhuman — basically and fundamentally.


November 11, 2017

flanders-fields-poppies-remembrance-dayToday, on November 11, at 11 o’clock in the morning, flowers were laid at the Cenotaph in London, as they are traditionally laid annually on this day to remember Britain’s war dead.

I felt sad reading in British papers that the poppy, the symbol of Remembrance Day, has turned into another instrument of the country’s political divide. Indignant voices are heard that those who do not wear red poppies in their lapels on this day are not patriotic enough. As an example of the patriotic position a Muslim lady was mentioned: she started wearing a poppy a few days before the date. However, some others wore not red but white poppies to emphasize that they were in opposition and their stand was that of pacifism. One of the readers says in comments that the red poppy was once promoted by the wife of the Field Marshal Douglas Haig, who was criticized for his leadership during WWI and was nicknamed “Butcher Haig” for the two million British casualties endured under his command. As an objection to some readers’ statements that the money collected as charity before Remembrance Day goes to support former military servicemen (especially those who are disabled), there are recommendations for the British moguls to withdraw the untaxed money from offshore banks and to give it to those who need it.

The war of experts over Brexit, sexual harassment, the film Dunkirk (“to see or not to see”) and, now, the poppy…

There’s at least one thing that reminds you of “good old Britain” (earlier, also “Great”). The heir to the throne Prince Charles laid the head wreath at the Cenotaph taking the Queen’s place. The Queen’s withdrawal was explained by her wish to be next to Prince Philip, who was officially retired but wanted to attend the event as a spectator. Charles’s wait for the crown has been the longest in the history of the British monarchy, but now the change is visible: Remembrance Day brings taste of kingship for Prince Charles, says The Guardian.




November 10, 2017



A typical error continuously made by Ukrainian students of English is the misusage of the words “actual/actually,” which, in English, respectively mean “real/in fact.” When a native English speaker hears the sentence “Payment backlogs are a very actual problem in Ukraine,” he won’t feel that the issue is “burning” – a semantic component contained in the Ukrainian word “”актуальний.” Even the replacements “present” or “current” recommended by dictionaries will not present a complete picture of what was going to be said. I have analyzed possible substitutes and suggest the following choices for the misused word:

…are vitally important

…are top-priority issues,

…are at the top of the agenda/list

…are exigent/challenging/relevant/currently topical/ of current concern/ pressing

 Informally, the colloquial synonym “to be on the front burner” may be used.


For the above sentence about the importance of payment backlogs in Ukraine, I would NOT use the following words recommended by some interactive dictionaries:

zeitgeisty (= reflecting the spirit of time);

time-sensitive (= a/ physically changing as time passes; b/ only relevant or applicable for a short period of time);

hot, or red-hot (= extremely popular; very active; successful)

up-to-the-minute (= extending to the present moment, as information, facts, or style: an up-to-the minute news report).

present-day (relating to the current period of time, as “present-day  technological developments”)

Naturally, these words may be used in other situations that relate to the lexical characteristics indicated in the brackets.


November 9, 2017

How to read book.IGNORANT

Ignorant, illiterate, unlettered, uneducated, untaught, untutored, unlearned mean not having knowledge.

One is ignorant who is without knowledge, whether in general, or of some particular thing <the disputants on both sides were ignorant of the matter they were disputing about – Ellis> <An ignorant person may be dangerous> <I confess I’m ignorant of mathematics>.

 One is illiterate who is without the necessary rudiments of education. The word may imply a failure to attain a standard set for the educated and cultivated person <you may read all the books in the British Museum (if you could live long enough) and remain an utterly illiterate, uneducated person – Ruskin). In its original meaning the word implies inability to read or write. Functionally illiterate is used in the sense that a person is unable to understand what he reads <illiterate voters>. When applied to the violation of English usage, the word illiterate means that the speaker/writer uses English below the status of what is considered to be standard (most teachers would stigmatize the expression “I seen it” as illiterate. The word, however, is often used merely as a contemptuous description of one that shows little evidence of education or cultivation <his speech is positively illiterate> or shows inability to read and understand <it is common knowledge that our professional students and candidates for the PhD are illiterate. One thing you learn very quickly in teaching students at the loftiest levels of education is that they cannot read – Hutchins> Another meaning of illiterate: not well-read or versed in literature: <classes for illiterate soldiers> <an illiterate mathematician>

One is unlettered who is without the learning that is to be gained through the knowledge of books. Often it implies being able to read and write, but with no facility in either reading or writing <unlettered peasants>

One is uneducated, untaught, untutored, unlearned who either has no training in the schools or under teachers or whose ignorance, or crudeness, or general lack of intelligence suggests such a lack. None of the words, however, is used with great precision or in a strict sense <untutored mind>, <experiences of an unlearned man in search for truth and understanding –– Brit. Book News> <taught so many flat lies that their false knowledge is more dangerous than the untutored natural wit of savages – Shaw>

Analogous words: obtuse, in the dark, benighted, naïve, blind to, shallow, green, unenlightened, unknowledgeable, unread, unschooled, untrained, unwitting, witless


November 9, 2017

to_be_or_not_to_be_261445TO BE

The verb TO BE is trained the moment a learner makes an “English start,“ whereupon the word is “delegated” to the field of grammar, and is studied as an auxiliary verb, link verb, modal verb, etc., — in all possible forms. However, the verb is also interesting as a lexical unit. Here are some remarks that may prove useful even at early stages of acquiring language skills.

  1. Am, is and are are not usually pronounced in full. When you write down what someone says, you usually represent am and is using ‘m and ‘s. You can represent are using ‘re, but only after a pronoun.

You can use ‘m, ‘s and ‘re when you are writing in a conversational style – like writing a letter to a friend, but, definitely, not an official letter, a CV, etc.

  1. In conversation, the verb to get is often used to form passives <he got interested>
  2. To make is sometimes used instead of to be to say how successful someone is in a particular job or role. As a lecturer, I used to give my students two identically structured sentences saying that in one of the sentences the verb functions as to be: She made him a good husband and She made him a good wife.
  3. Teachers usually instruct their students that the verb to be forms its negative and interrogative structures without any auxiliaries, “forgetting” the case, when the auxiliary “do is used, like in the sentence “Don’t be long!”
  4. Depending upon a context, the structure is/are/was/were + to be + Past Participle may have not only the modal meaning of obligation (“this story is to be read”), but the meaning of possibility, making the structure be synonymous with the verb “can”: <These birds are to be found all over the world>, <Little traffic was to be seen> ( as soon as students come to know this very meaning of the structure, the teacher will probably have to emphasize every time that the home work which is set “to be done” is an obligation, but in no way a possibility 🙂 )
  5. Some more cases of usage:
  • Mother-to-be, teacher-to-be, = an expectant mother, a future teacher…
  • Let me be! = Let me be what I want! (It’s none of your business, leave me alone; drop it!)
  • What’s it to be? (in a bar, etc.) = What is it you wish? What would be your order?
  • “…been (and gone) and done” = made a mess of … <You’ve been and done it!> (Ukrainian: Ну й наламали ж ви дров!); Another variant: <You’ve been and gone and done it!>; <That dog of yours has been and dug up my flowers!>
  • the be-all and end-all = the final aim apart from which nothing is of real importance: <This job isn’t the be-all and end-all of existence>
  • to come into being = to start to exist: <When did the Roman Empire come into being?>
  • a being = any living person or thing: <beings from outer space>
  • What is it to you? = Mind your own business; It’s none of your business. This is usually used defensively, against someone who is being nosy.
  • As it is = already: <I’ve got enough problems as it is>

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